GeoLearning’s GeoMaestro is a LMS that packs a wallop but at the same time has some features that provide limitations. While the solution delivers more than enough for a LMS and the company gets “it” for where the industry needs to go, GeoLearning has made some interesting decisions with GeoMaestro that to say the least is bewildering.
LMS Super Plus Features
- Phenomenal Front end (what the learner sees) UI (user interface)
- Administrator side is equally pleasant, with ease of use, nav friendly playing a key role
- API (Application Program Interface) capability
- Strong ILT functions (for those who offer instructor led training)
- Wizards for the Admin side – Genius!
LMS Solid Features
- Role focused capability & groups (common in every LMS solution)
- Label Manipulation (on the front end, created by admin) – A nice to have (but becoming common)
- Add-on modules
- Integration with WebEx (separate license required)
- Training & Customer Support
- Additional cost for Training/Support – package based (Common in the industry, but enough already)
- GeoEngage – Add on module for additional SL features
GeoMaestro Poor Features
- Social Learning standard features – Lame
Front End (What the end user sees)
One of the biggest challenges and common problem in the LMS/LCMS space is navigation and ease of use issues when it comes to the what the learner sees. It is truly amazing on how vendors seem to think lots of stuff on the page, is the way to go and navigation is just a requirement.
What is really nice about GeoMaestro is that GeoLearning has thought long and hard about this issue and has solved it. Ease of use is clearly seen in the offering, with the end user being able to see by pods (little windows on the screen) items setup by the administrator. The user simply clicks and they are on their way. The pods can include announcements (news), course catalog, courses selected, transcript, etc.
Each pod or viewing area can be setup based on role, so what one end user may see another with a different role may not. Nice. The labels are changeable, so if you do not use the term announcements, you can call it what you want. Plus, if you do not want it, it can be removed. Thus, from the end user – learner perspective it can be non-cluttered and thus a greater experience in terms of finding information quickly and going there equally quick – time saving and again, a great feature.
Navigation is clearly visible throughout the system, and again the focus is ease of use. This is wonderful, especially with end users who can get confused or have zero to limited tech knowledge. As you know, you have once chance to get them in there and use the system, otherwise they are gone. With the GeoMaestro, this issue is eliminated. Time saving, ease are the keys and it shows.
Administration Back End
The GeoMaestro stays with this ease of use approach on the administrator side of things. Regardless of someone’s tech skills or knowledge, using and understanding (for the most part) the admin side is simple and very doable. One of the great components are wizards, so that an administrator can setup whatever following a wizard for that component or feature they select. The Wizard pops-up and with a few simple clicks by the administrator on what they want, it is created. Again, ease of use, quick are the keys and a well deserved clap should be given to GeoLearning.
The administrator can setup groups, roles, curriculum, themes (a wizard), edit the themes, and control the layout of what the end user views on their screen. Reports are canned but an ad-hoc feature does exist and the key here, exists within the system, so whatever your needs are they are met. Depending on your data, output includes graphs and pie charts.
The dashboard is clean and easy to understand. Setting up the ILT functionality is again, easy to do and the features are more than robust.
WebEx Integration aka as Meeting Center
A standard feature in today’s industry is the “infamous” integration with the web conferencing solution. While it is optional, in the sense, you do not have to use it, it being integrated into the solution, takes away the Training executive having to locate one. The downside is you do not automatically get to use it. First you have to purchase a separate license, which you can do own your own or have GeoLearning do it for you (always a better option). Secondly, a typically very common is the integration to the back end of the LMS – reports, tracking, etc. that is really something you want. What is great about GeoMaestro is if you choose to use the WebEx solution, it integrates nicely with the admin side of the house, taking away past problems, often seen in other systems.
If you choose not to use the WebEx solution, you can use another via an API or another vendor, but for the latter it is a link to the web conferencing solution (common practice in the industry, if you do not use their preferred conferencing solution). An API can tie back into the administration side of things, still providing you with the data needed, so if you want to go with an open source API it can be done.
The downside of using this, is it will require someone with programming skills to work with GeoLearning to make it a go (again, common).
GeoMaestro makes great use of the widget capability, allowing a lot of flexibility and additional features which can be used within the system. The solution comes with a set of widgets, so you can start right away having them viewable in your system (if you do not want them all, you do not have to, but they are available automatically in your system). So, the administrator is off and running and your end users are provided a nice treat.
However, the real strength comes in the form, of you either locating other widgets online (there are plenty of directories that offer them) or build your own. If you choose the latter, someone must have the skill set to do this. GeoLearning offers the creation feature for you, for an additional cost. Personally, if you want to add new widgets or more widgets, locate them in an online directory and use those. There are thousands to choose from, in lots of categories.
GeoMaestro is API friendly, which in today’s market and where the market needs to go, is critical. Why vendors still think this is not needed or used, makes no sense. However, GeoLearning understands where the market needs to go and is going and offers API functionality. Again, a “Yeah” shout goes out to them.
Content Authoring Tool
GeoLearning accepts 3rd party authoring tools including Lectora, Articulate, Rapitivity Presenter, Thesis, Raptivity and Yawnbuster. Which means you can create a course in any of these solutions and then upload it into GeoMaestro.
If your goal is to incorporate and offer social learning as part of your LMS, then this is one system I would not recommend. The standard features are a blog and wiki. Big deal.
GeoEngage is the add on module to GeoMaestro, that is pitched as a SL solution. To me, it is a combination of the COP (Community of Practice) with some components that while yes, are social media types (discussion board, web conferencing – real time communication), other parts are not. Some specifics of GeoEngage:
- Create communities and sub-communities
- Can share discussion rooms across one or more communities
- End users can interact with the community via email or the web
- Search engine, with functionality for end users to search by keywords in a document, PDF, user profile, resource library, discussion areas
- End users can communicate in real time via the built-in chat, webcast or with the integrated WebEx solution
GeoEngage, to me is not 100% SL, from a true perspective, nor would I state this, if someone was to ask me.
For a company – GeoLearning that understands and utilizes emerging technology, the lack of really a nice set of social learning/social media functionality that comes with their system (baffeling) and an add-on module – GeoEngage, which is a mixture of a COP with some social media bits, is disappointing.
While GeoLearning can state that there current clients do not see a use for it, what about the potential new clients and customers. I do not blame GeoLearning on the current clients perspective, because many vendors do this. But they forget that they are in the business to attract new clients and customers, and those people are coming in with a different perspective and look. My pitch is simply this, if your current clients use only IE, then why do you offer Firefox as well? Clearly, the spin on “current clients” is diluted with that question.
Tablets & HTML5
GeoMaestro does not fully support HTML5, which begs the question why, when will you have this player as part of your solution? GeoLearning says they will explore the HTML5 angle in the future, but what does that mean? In a year, two years, three or more? If GeoLearning wants to pitch itself as a cutting edge solution and understanding where the market is headed, I would think they would see HTML5 as a reality, some web sites are already starting to build in it, tablets fully utilize it and YouTube has created a beta for it.
Training and Support
GeoMaestro offers a package – level based training and support. A client can choose either level 1, level 2 or level 3, depending on their needs.
Listed below is pricing for GeoMaestro. Please be aware this is street pricing and does not include any type of negotiated discount. Always negotiate for the best pricing, and if signing a 3 year or more deal (I recommend 3 years and no more), require a discount for each year.
Pricing does not include any add-on modules or options you decide to purchase.
- 250 Users $57.60/user/year
- 500 Users $54.00/user/year
- 2000 Users $32.74/user/year
- 5000 Users $26.49/user/year
- GeoLearning GeoMaestro
- SAAS platform
GeoMaestro is a good system, that offers lots of features that can meet your needs. Ease of use and nav friendly on the end user (learner side) and administrator side is beyond exceptional. The ability for someone who has zero to advanced tech skills and wants to enjoy this system can be met.
While GeoMaestro offers slick features and sees where the industry must go with its capabilities, its decision to not have even a decent social learning platform is mysterious. However, if this is not a crucial point for you, then GeoLearning’s GeoMaestro more than delivers.
Next week: Emerging Technology – APIs